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NC State Football

IPS REPORT CARD: Wolfpack Averts Disaster, Sinks Pirates

September 5, 2022

After returning to Raleigh from Greenville Saturday evening, I perfomed in the Harry Show, the M-rated 10 p.m. show held on Fridays and Saturdays at Raleigh’s improv comedy club ComedyWorx (not to be confused with the liars at the Raleigh Improv, neither located in Raleigh nor known for showcasing improv). Personally, I felt out of sorts on stage that night, and there were core fundamentals of improv that I was struggling to stick to despite having seven years with the club. Though I’d felt stuck in my own head at various points, I left the show with the resigned satisfaction that I succeeded in the ultimate goal: ensuring the audience had a great time.

With that completely irrelevant introduction out of the way (*hint hint*), it’s time to hand out grades for No. 13 NC State’s 21-20 season-opening road win over East Carolina on Saturday.

QUARTERBACK: Normally, I’m just used to saying that Devin Leary did Devin Leary things and just call it a day. This game felt very un-Devin Leary-like.

Completing 17 of 33 pass attempts for 211 yards and one touchdown is a modest stat line for a quarterback. However, Leary is supposed to be one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC, and the bar has to be significantly higher for him. It also didn’t help that the usually interception-proof Leary tossed a pick at one of the most inopportune times, leading to what would have been the game-tying touchdown had it not been for the errant point-after attempt by Owen Daffer. It wasn’t an earth-shatteringly poor performance, but it’s a far cry from the guy who toppled Clemson and rallied against North Carolina in 2021.

Grade: B-

RUNNING BACK: Jordan Houston and Demie Sumo shared the load in the backfield, and Sumo emerged as the top back between the pair. Houston’s longest carry went for 14 yards at the end of the first half, and he coughed the ball up to the Pirates after getting the carry from the ECU 2. Meanwhile, Sumo maneuvered his way through the ECU defense for two rushes for over 20 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown. That being said, Houston also added three catches out of the backfield for 25 yards. Less than an ideal showing overall, but it was a solid output nonetheless, especially from the true sophomore. However, the overall grade will get docked due to the numerous chances to score from the doorstep of the end zone.

Grade: C+

RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: Thayer Thomas was undoubtedly the MVP out of the receiver corps. The redshirt graduate student hauled in four passes for 58 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown. He was also a key contributor in special teams, but that’ll be assessed later. Keyon Lesane also hauled in a 24-yard reception, the only other explosive pass play for the afternoon. Devin CarterDarryl Jones, and Trent Pennix also hauled in a pair of receptions each, totaling 87 yards combined.

Whether fairly or unfairly, the rating of the receivers is mostly impacted by the quarterback play. In the latter stages of the game, Leary felt a bit off-kilter, and that influenced the second-half numbers a bit. That said, the overall grade will get a bit of a bump up thanks to Thomas’ strong showing.

Grade: B

OFFENSIVE LINE: The offensive line starts the 2022 season sack-free, which is always a good sign. The Pirates did manage to hurry Leary four times, but at least one of those came from a missed block from the tailback. Dylan McMahon and Tim McKay combined for 11 pancake blocks to lead the Pack’s O-line. The group got overwhelmed during the two goal-line stands, but aside from that and a pair of pre-snap penalties, there’s not to complain about in this regard.

Grade: B+

DEFENSIVE LINE: Savion Jackson recorded the D-line’s only two tackles for a loss. The returning C.J. Clark managed to bat down one of Holton Ahlers’ pass attempts. The Pirates were held to four yards per carry on the ground, but Ahlers managed to evade the Pack pressure on multiple occasions. Overall, this was a middling performance.

Grade: C+

LINEBACKERS: The linebacker corps covered the field well in Greenville. Jaylon ScottDrake Thomas, and Isaiah Moore combined for 21 tackles, including two for a loss. Jordan Poole even managed to hurry Ahlers. Much like the grade for quarterbacking, this is going to be graded a bit harshly due to the fact that this group is capable of so much more, especially with the missed tackles Dave Doeren alluded to after the game.

Grade: C+

SECONDARY: Tyler Baker-Williams and Shyheim Battle pulled down interceptions, starting the year off strong for the NC State secondary. Additionally, Aydan White broke up three passes to go along with a four-tackle day. Cyrus Fagan and Tanner Ingle each recorded six tackles. However, allowing a pair of 30-yard pass plays, highlighting the ECU’s 255-yard, two-touchdown day through the air, isn’t exactly ideal. It’s a lot of good and a lot of bad, so this seems like a mostly fair grade.

Grade: C+

SPECIAL TEAMS: Best unit of the game. After coming up with a monstrous tackle on the Pirates’ kick return, Sean Brown followed it up by recovering Jasiah Provillon’s blocked punt and scoring the Wolfpack’s second touchdown of the game. As alluded to earlier, Thomas also had a huge contribution in special teams with a punt return that put NC State inside the ECU 25 (which would have had a bigger impact if the Wolfpack hadn’t been stopped at the three-yard line on the ensuing drive). Shane McDonough averaged 44.2 yards per punt and managed to hang a punt that State downed at the Pirates’ 1. Finally, Chris Dunn tacked on all of his extra points. Great day at the office for Todd Goebbel and company.

Grade: A

INTANGIBLES: The overall feeling with this game was that there was just something off. Especially after the third quarter, there was just a cloud of overarching dread for the guys in white jerseys. This team didn’t play like a ranked team, and the Pirates came out ready to shock the nation. However, through some semblance of divine intervention, NC State lucked out on errant kicks by Daffer in the closing stages. Even in victory, the Wolfpack left Greenville uneasy.

Grade: D-

OVERALL: To paraphrase Leary after the game, it’s a lot better for a team to learn from a win than from a loss. Depending on one’s perspective, the Wolfpack will fortunately or unfortunately have a lot to learn from after this one. The Pirates tried to plunder, but NC State left with its booty intact but with even more violent storms in the forecast further along.

Grade: C-

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